Rufus froze when he saw Obaseki moving towards our table. His jawline tightened. The grotesque was unmasking. I understood the meaning of that facial reaction. When a cobra flattens its head and its neck while lifting up its body off the ground to the torso level, even a baby knows what that means. We had crossed the red zone. I immediately got up and picked up the tumbler in front of him before it became a scud missile. My movement also distracted him for a moment. This was the climactic moment that had been building up for a year.
I am pleased to announce the publication of an essay that I wrote in 2004–sixteen years later.
The journal is the INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ART.
The essay, on the work of Bing Davis, is titled “Flying Back Home.” I describe Mr. Davis as an “Afronaut.”
I did not use the term “Afrofuturism,” because that term was not even in theoretical usage at that time.
A friend, who is also a devout, church-going Christian just talked with me a few minutes ago. He called from Nigeria.
“What is wrong with these kids?” he asked me. “Why can’t they protest peacefully? What has their quarrel against police brutality got to do with burning down buildings, and looting stores? They are criminals. They are worse than the politicians they are criticizing. If you place them in positions of power, they would do worse.”
I didn’t respond. After all, I didn’t call him. He called. He must have something really important to say to have spent his money calling me.
In 2016, I looked into the middle of the Opon Ifa and what did I see?
I saw women, simple, rural, agrarian women carrying automatic weapons on their way to their farmlands.
Some of them were pregnant, some carrying loads on their heads, some with their children, some walking alone, some hiking in groups, all moving from one point to another.
I sat up abruptly. What was this I was seeing?
I studied with the Ìyàmi,
the Power Mothers who
suspend the global ball
on a single frail string,
yet it cannot snap.
After they gave me the name Ọ̀rìságbèmí Arígbábuwó, I transcend the boundaries of gender, race, time, and geography.
Here is the story of that transcendental embodiment, in its most concise form.
“I just discovered a river!” Steve announced, breathless, as he ran into the sitting room with enthusiasm. “And it’s just fifteen minutes from here.”
I said, “Mungo Park.”
Rufus, spreading out on the sofa, said, “Where is it?”
“Hidden in plain sight!” Steve said. “I was driving down Ekenwan Street, and there was this dirt road by the side. I decided to explore it.”
“What’s the name of the street?” I asked.
“No signboard,” Steve said.
“There is no Benin street without a signboard,” Rufus said. “Benin people are good with signboards. Even narrow paths have signboards.”